Friday, August 10, 2018
War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (Critical Issues in World and International History) Third Edition by Doris L. Bergen (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers )
Professor Doris L. Bergen’s War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust provides readers with a book that address the relationship between the Holocaust and the Second World War. She argues that the war was central to events of the Holocaust. This is a departure from scholarship that has viewed the Holocaust and WWII as distinctly different historical events that could be understood independent of one another. This book serves to bring these two fields of historical scholarship and place them together in one book. Doing this allows readers to begin to see WWII and Holocaust as interconnected not merely taking place simultaneously. In doing this Professor Bergen is engaging with other scholarship that has not always considered how the war was a necessary part in the ability of the Nazi’s to carry out their Crimes Against Humanity. Bergen’s argument is particularly compelling when she focuses on the period from 1944-1945. During this period she states that while WWII was lost for Germany, the War Against the Jews continued at furious pace.
Professor Bergen divides her book up into chronological sections that cover different phases in both WWII and the Holocaust. This method allows readers to follow the changing nature of WWII and the Holocaust. One aspect of the book that could be improved upon is the integration of the information about WWII with the information about the Holocaust. The large sections of the book that cover the Battle of Britain and Operation Barbarossa (German invasion of the USSR) sidetracked readers from the central argument of the book. Another downside to this book is the sections in which Bergen’s writing becomes bogged down in the numbers and dates that she is trying to include. Providing footnotes for where readers could access some of this information would allow her to cut back on how much of this information she would need to include in the text. This would increase the readability, particularly for people who would like an overview of the scholarship in the field without getting caught up in specific details. This would be more in keeping with Bergen’s intention of writing a textbook on the scholarship of the Holocaust. In terms of the content of the book I think that there is one area in which I would have liked to see her go into more detail. She does not discuss the nature of religious or racial anti-Semitism in great detail. This could make it difficult for readers who have little background in the area and might not be able to understand how aspects of Nazi ideology were grounded in existing anti-Semitism (i.e. the Blood Libel).
Overall this is a good choice if you are looking for a book to that will give you an overview of the most up –to-date information on the scholarship within the field of Holocaust Studies. Both undergraduate students and general readers interested in Holocaust history would find this book a good base of information on which they could then build upon with other texts.